Monday, August 31, 2009

More Fires in So Cal

This pic of the Station Fire's smoke plume is amazing. Below all that smoke are a lot of lost dreams, scarred mountains, and at least two lives sacrificed to duty.

Right now it is very smoky at work. Hard to breathe. I have a high view of the area to the north where Acton resides. That is the hot front right now with the most danger to homes. Eventually this will run its tragic course, but riding in the San Gabes' will not be the same for years to come.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Riding With Disneyland Eyes

The other day I went to Dizzyland for my birthday. Killer clever marketing really, for this year the Magic Kingdom began a promotional campaign that allowed you to register on their website as to your birthdate. Then, on that day, you could print out a notification from your email and present it to the ticket booth at Disneyland and get in free. Pretty cool and really smart cuz who goes to Disneyland alone? Hardly anyone. I brought my son and wifey of course. I would not have gone unless I had the birthday deal as it costs $75.00 or so a person + food to go there for the day. I bet they are 3 or 4 to one on paying vs. non-paying b-day attendees.

But, back on track.

So, I really like Disneyland, always have and that goes back to the kiddy days when the place seemed huge (it feels smaller now) and the worlds they created inside the walls...Frontier Land, New Orleans Quarter, Main Street...were just amazing. When you are young, your eyes open wide and it all seems so real.

And that is what I did last Friday. I walked through the gates, took a deep breath and opened my eyes wide, allowing the feeling of wonder and kid-like awe to wash over me in a warm, familiar, and tingly with anticipation way. I smiled. Adventure awaits.

Yeah, there will be lines, crowds, and expensive food. No matter. That is just the price of being there and if your eyes are on all that, you are missing it big time. It will kill the wonder of the moment and the joy of the possibilities that await around the next corner.

Riding mountain bikes should be that way. It used to be. Cycling in general, but mtn biking especially. When we were new at it, there was a sense of discovery that permeated our rides. New techniques we were learning, new places we were seeing and new feelings we were...well, feeling. It was like we were kids again with the wind in our faces and the thrill of gravity as an ally, this time without overheated coaster brakes. Jumps, slides, wheelies, sunsets and sunrises, sweat, hard work, payoffs, FUN.

Time and life can dull that. We squeeze in riding between the pages of life's full book. If we are not careful, we focus on the long lines for the Matterhorn and miss the magic of a mountain top we have yet to summit, even if the snow is fake. We think about the cost of the hot dog and forget to enjoy the taste of it. We get all grown up and worry about how fast we went (or how fast we did NOT go) and never even notice where we were.

How sad for us.

The next time you clip in and set to pedaling, even if the world you have to pedal on seems smaller than it used to be and you long ago forgot how to feel the 'magic' of it all...close your eyes (not too long are riding at the moment), take a deep breath and open the eyes of the inner child that first learned to ride a bike, turned the corner out of the front yard, and headed toward a really big world full of possibilities and wonder.

It is still a very special world and we are lucky enough to be able to pedal across it. We just need to see it again. Perhaps we just need some better sunglasses.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I need a bike path bike

There is a pretty good amount of bike paths in my area that are flat and scenic but most importantly, are away from the traffic (that there is also a good amount of). A road bike is so overkill for that type of ride, even if you can do 30 miles of bike path if you want to. What, you need 20 gears and a 17 pound, carbon framed wunder-bike to do that? Pffhaaa!

But a mtn bike set up for dirt, even a 29er, is not really great either, what with knobbies and flat bars. So, I have plans for the Karate Monkey. The versatile Monkey, the Swiss Army knife of cheap 29er frames. I need to get a rigid fork and then I will build it up with the wheels that are now on the SS Jabberwocky, soon to be spinning around on new hoops. That will mean lacing up a new rear DT Swiss 7.1 TK rim (crash damage that makes a rim brake an issue), but then I will choose a singlespeed gear that works as a compromise on flat trails and moderate hills, add some kind of an alt handlebar and cheap Avid rim brakes, use some shorter cranks for the big spin, likely an old XT square taper with some ancient BB...tadahhhh! Urban rage machine and bike path monster/curb hopper/spin master/attack cruiser.

Hah. I can hardly wait.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm goin' to Disneyland

Really I am, cuz it's my birthday tomorrow. Disneyland seems smaller then it was when I was a kid, but it still captures my imagination. No riding that day, so tonite was a double loop of the local trails on the SS with Ed the Tall and JeffJ and Son.

I am really diggin' the Jabberwocky. I wonder if they would let me ride it around Tom Sawyers Island?

Likely not.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Old Guys Rule

I am an Old Guy, by most standards, and I am surrounded by old guys that I ride with. Sure, there are young pups in the group too, but mostly we are way past what the rest of the non-athletic public at large would call 'our prime'.

Prime. Phhhaa! Who needs it. We are Old Guys and Old Guys rule. Especially cycling Old Guys. We rule because we choose to grab a handlebar and not a bar stool. We rule because we could be sitting around the TV with a view to a virtual life and no one would blame us, but instead we sit in the saddle and our view of life is the real deal. We rule because we hurt...a lot...and we still do it next weekend. God bless Ibuprofen, glucosamine/chondroitin and deep tissue massage.

Our wives don't get it. Our co-workers don't get it. Heck, sometimes I am not sure I get it.

So this one is for you, the Old Guys. To all the creaking knees, aching backs and bulging discs. To the wrinkled faces and bare foreheads. To those who need reading glasses to adjust your rear derailleur and cannot see that tiny GPS screen no matter what. For all the ones who are living with bodies that are slowly being worn down by time and say, "Screw it, I am going riding. Try and catch me"

To those with low cholesterol and better resting heart rates than a 25 year old. To the ones who beat diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and all the other stuff that the other, TV watching, old guys have.

To the hardened 54 year old guy racing the Colorado Trail on a singlespeed to the still pudgy weekend warrior who needs a lower gear...everywhere...but still does it anyway cuz he will not give up....I salute you.

To masters class racers and grandpas who put the hurt on the grandkids in the climbs. To lean and mean greyhounds to self acknowledged fat guys rule.

This one is for you. The Duke would have tipped his hat to ya, Pilgrim.

"If you don't respect your elders, then I'll just have to teach you to respect your betters." - John Wayne

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The LOVN ride

Well, it has been quite some time since I purchased the bikepacking bags from Carousel Design Works with every intention of getting right out there and trying them out. Not! One thing or another always got in the way and summer reared its hot, ugly brown head. I knew I needed to do some quick trips to get things sorted out. I had never used the new one man tent, I used the sleeping bag once, and the bags were unproven as far as how they rode on the bike, how it handled, etc.

I still have things to do: build a penny stove, get some different odds and ends, but I had enough to actually get out there and try it for real. An overnighter. OOOOhhhhh. Scary! So, it was with more than a little bit of nervous feelings that I pedaled off into the local hills to bed down for the night.

First though, lets us take a look at the gear again. In the saddle bag I had the tent 'canvas', the tent footprint and the liner for my sleeping bag for extra warmth. I still had room for the storm fly of the tent and maybe even more, but that would have been about it. The tent was an REI Chrysalis one man deal that I had picked up on close out. I do want to get into tarp camping, but I still want the option of a tent for more of an enclosed experience or bad weather trip.

In the frame pack I had my tool bag off the bike (normally under the saddle rails) and my helmet light in case I needed to bail in the dark, etc. There was plenty of room for more in that bag, what with all the side pockets etc. Good map potential, etc.

The fuel cell was pretty much empty except for my evening dessert...a Snickers Dark. Yum.

The bar bag carried the 3/4 length Thermarest mattress and the tent poles rolled into the pad center. I had more room on each end of the bar bag for rain gear, jackets, etc. The bar bag always gives me grief every time I go to mount it on the bike. I know this is hard to make fir all the different bikes and combos of cabling etc, and it is a balancing act to get it to fit without interfering with cables/hoses and brake levers. Even once that is done, the bag was way too wiggly. I could wag it side to side too easily. Maybe I have it on there wrong...that is possible, but if so, I am not smart enough to figure it out...yet. If you see an error in my ways, sing out. So, I wrapped the two extra/external straps around the crown of the Reba and that settled things down nicely for now. I am already working on a rack of sorts to allow the bag more support and less chance of getting into the cables. We shall see.

The Gregory z22 backpack carried the extra clothes, the Deuter Dreamlite 500 sleeping bag (note the pic next to the water bottle is a really small package, that bag), and some other odds and ends plus a nearly full 100 liter water bladder.

Taa daaah!!! Ready for the road.

I had really struggled with where to go for that first LOVN. That is Local OVer Nighter for your info. I am surrounded by foothills, but I did not want to camp in the dry brush. Too snaky this time of year. I had to be back at home early Sat AM so a trip up into the higher forest was not in the plans. Finally, I thought of a spot in the local lake area that is forest-like, had a nice viewpoint, and is remote enough (and gated) to not have any yahoos driving around there at night.

So there I was, pedaling over the few miles to camp with the oddest feeling. I am not sure why, but it seemed so darn adventurous! Weird, I mean it is not like I was crossing the continent. Arriving at camp, this was my view just at dusk.

I went to sleep with the sound of ducks and other water birds calling across the dark waters of the lake.

My alarm clock was a pack of coyotes singing, barking, and yipping like the world was ending. It was not, but my sleep time was. The morning view beat anything I get in the bedroom at home.

Morning view.

I was pretty comfy actually. The tent is plenty roomy for one and it set up easily. I realized that without a storm fly on the tent, I had no vestibule. So I clipped my helmet to the tent pole and left the shoes out for the raccoons to wear around if they felt frisky. I am a side sleeper so that means I need to keep some kind of pillow thing going on or my neck will be trashed. I found that a compressible camping pillow on top of the Gregory pack was absolutely perfect. The pillow will have to go as it is still too big to pack for longer trips, but I have a camping thingy that makes a jacket or whatever into a pillow with a pillowcase arrangement.

The temps got into the mid 50s, maybe. That is pretty warm and the Dreamlight 500 bag was barely adequate at that temp range for me as I am a cold sleeper. However, with a Thermarest silk liner I was pretty warm and it could have dropped a few more degrees and been OK. Beyond that and I would have been cold. However, there is an emergency bivvy product that I bet could be used as a burrito warmer/bivvy sack and extend that another few degrees beyond that. If it is getting into the mid to low 40s at night, I would probably have a bit of warm riding clothes with me that I could layer in those as well.

The bike handled just like a mtn bike should. I knew it was loaded a bit, and I really was not fully weighted down like I would be for a long trip, but it handled the singletrack just fine. That is sweetness.

There will be a few more of these LOVN rides for sure. Then when I have things figured out, the real planning will begin.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A weighty matter

What is wrong in this pic?

No, I am not trolling for trailside animals. No, I have not decided that the key to getting faster is a heavier bike. No, I am not shielding my rear brake caliper from harmful radiation with a lead covering.

This is a solution to this issue: The Infamous Avid/Juicy brake Turkey Gobble

In the immortal words of Sherlock Holmes, "Resonance, my dear Watson...resonance". Apparently the stars align in a way that the Juicy stuff seems to like to turn some bikes into a big tuning fork and the result is a noisy, frustrating, tingly ride. Weighting the caliper serves to change the frequency of the vibration and the extracts the gobble from the system, turning a true turkey of a brake into a golden goose. I rode last night and while I did get some squeal when the brakes were hot, there was no hint of the typical gobbly noise.

Huh. How about that? This is a test bike, so it is a temp thing, but if it were me, I would go to an automotive tire store and grab some of those stick on wheel weights for a cleaner look overall. Then the only turkey on my rides would be in a sandwich I was carrying.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Proud Papa

From Gary's tweets: The bike that won two Champs this year. Superfly 100.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

650b-good or 650b-gone?

It has been interesting to watch the 650b groove play out although I have been watching from afar, never actually having ridden one of the 'tweener' wheeled bikes. Likely that is to change at Interbike Demo Days, but I have no practical experience on the little dears, just to get that out of the way.

But every so often I cruise through the different forums and see what the 650b folks are all a-twitter about. Sometimes it is a new tire promised soon or a rumor of another manufacturer jumping into the fray, but mostly it is neither of those. Mostly it is conversions of 26" wheeled bikes to 650b. Many hardtails and some FS bikes readily accept the bigger hoops and there are some very good 26" wheel forks that work nicely, albeit with some limited arch clearance.

Is this the future of 650b? To be a niche up-conversion from existing 26ers? Maybe it is and maybe that is not a bad thing. Let me think out loud a bit.

29ers are here to stay and will only grow in numbers. They are already beyond niche and while they are not for everyone they are the real deal: enough of a difference to be dramatically set apart from 26" wheeled bikes....both good and bad differences, but there they are, obvious and apparent.

26ers are not going to vanish anytime soon or likely ever and not because they are so great, but they are so entrenched and they work well enough that nearly anyone on any kind of a mtn bike will be happy enough on 26" wheels, even if they are not the best choice.

So here they are with the 650b, pushing a mid sized knobby wheel uphill with the nose as it were. Tough battle. But all this has been debated before so lets get back to the conversion bonus angle. Lets just say that the middie-wheel (as opposed to kiddie-wheel and biggie-wheel) never takes off beyond that: lots of folks looking to add some bennies by converting an existing 26er to 650b. It would support a pretty decent aftermarket for tires and rims. Maybe a fork or two, but maybe not if there are enough 26ers out there that do it anyway and folks already have them or eBay sells 'em cheap used. Then, there is White Bros as a source for new 650b forks.

In fact, and I was discussing this with Guitar Ted, I can see a bike maker actually making 26" frames that are made to fit 650b wheels as far as clearance, etc, right from the get-go. They could advertise that as a plus. "Need a higher BB and more wheel size for roots and rocks? Swap to 650b in a heartbeat. Want a lower sitting bike for smooth, fast trails and long climbs? 26" is there for you as well." (Credit to GT for that line of marketing).

I know there is at least one more good sized player getting on the 650B train this next year. There already is Haro. Any more? Perhaps. Some likely waiting in the wings like many of the big guns did with 29ers. I bet a few others will say "H E double toothpicks NO" when asked if they will ever build a middie-wheeled bike, but look at Turner and Santa Cruz. Both of them being outspoken 'no way' to 29ers and now they are both in the game.

Well, I hope that the 650b wheel gets enough of a following to stay around and become a viable choice, even if it is never the next 'big thing'. Choices are good, even if it is just a way to make an faithful old scooter even better.

Roadie Rapper vs. Fixie Hipster

Funny stuff. Love the part where he laments about having an aluminum frame.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Weekend wrap-up

Nothing much to report here. Work had me on a short leash but I did get some saddle time in, or since I was SS riding mostly, out of the saddle time.

In fact, Friday night I accepted the veritable gauntlet throwdown by Ed the Tall to ride a local hill climb on the SS. It has a bit of a warm-up and then climbs steadily and steeply into a park/woodland area. It hurts on a geary, so the SS seemed foolish there. Perfect challenge, actually, for a quicky after work ride. It actually was not that bad, 35 minutes of so to the top. Fish tacos soon followed.

I have been thinking about what wheels for the SS make the most sense. I have been dabbling with the thought of running a freewheel type hub like a Paul's combined with a White Industries freewheel. It is not really that much cheaper since the freewheel is knocking on $100.00. that kind of eats up the initial cost savings on the hub over, say a Hope SS cassette hub. Still, I do like the wider hub flange spacing on the pure SS hubs. Very nice.

It works out to be around 131 grams heavier for the Paul/Whites combo though. Ugh. Over a 1/4 pound of added weight. More work to change gear ratios, harder to remove freewheel, etc. Well, I think there is room for improvement in the SS hub world. Why stick with a thread-on freewheel? Give me a decent weight hub with a cassette body that accepts a splined cog and allows for maybe 3 cogs width of chainline adjustment. Something like this, but with higher quality (sealing), lighter weight and lots of options for axles...bolt on, QR, thru axle like a 10mm set-up.

Meanwhile, I weighed a few front wheels I have on the three bikes: The Hope/Flow/Race Kings tubeless on the Lev, the DT Swiss 7.1TK/DT Swiss Onyx/Mtn King w/tubes on the Jabber, and the Giant branded setup on the Giant XTC test bike and a Kenda Karma 2.2 with tubes. All of them had the QRs installed in the wheels and 160mm rotors

The results:

4lbs 11 oz for the Jabber's wheel

4lbs 15oz for the Giant's wheel

4lbs even for the Lev's set-up.

Wow. Amazing difference. No wonder the Lev feels so nice when I am climbing. I never thought that it would be such a difference. I figured half that maybe. It explains a bit to me on why the Giant feels a bit lazy when climbing. I really want to upgrade the SS wheels now!

Next up was the brake howl/turkey gobble on the rear brake on the Giant. There is an amazing thread on the MTBR Brake forum about the Avid rear brake noise here. I am waiting for some replacement parts from Avid to see if I can break the Juicy 3 in properly, but meanwhile the silly fishing weight has shut up the turkey for now. How funny. See post #429 for my pics of the 'cure'.

The new Serfas pads on the Shimano brakes on the Lev were the next to get my attention. I have been less than thrilled about the amount of braking force the pads are giving me, but worse than that, the rear brake was squealing nicely. I noticed that the pad looked to be catching the rotor vanes (actually, I think the rear rotor is wearing thin) so I spaced the caliper up with a washer. No noise so far. I really could use a bigger rotor in front with the mediocre performance of the pads. They are quiet for a sintered pad, but the Shimano versions offered a lot more bite.

Now, if I can get the pulsing demon out of my BB7 brakes on the Jabberwocky, I will be much happier, but I have plans for that too.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

An open love letter to SRAM

To whom it may concern: I love you, dear SRAM persons, for doggedly sticking to the Grip Shift as a viable (well, who are we is not just viable, it is superior) alternative to flippy lever shifting. Push pull, pull pull, shove nudge, lift lever, love lever....whatever lever.

The twist rocks.

I remember the first models. They were less than stellar performers as I recall. They earned the nickname, "Grip S**t". You may remember that too. And the full width grip was a deal breaker ...too hard to hang on to the grips and not shift by mistake when things got rough. But when things got rough for you guys, you dug in and refined and improved. The half length grip in 8 speed that I used for years is still sitting in my parts box and still works as well as the day it was made if I wanted to dig it out and go all 8 speed retro. For now, I will keep my X9 rear stuff.

But I digress. I have been efficiently twisting through the gears for so long, my thumbs have lost the ability to flip a lever. I don't regret this at all and time spent on a recent bike with under the bar lever shifting brought that back to mind.

Multiple gear shifts? Sure. Dump the entire cassette in one wrist roll? OK. Trim the front der? Sure. Where do you want it? Simple, elegant, reliable, light weight, and a thumb in the eye to all the critics who scoffed 'back in the day'.

Please make this stuff forever. But if not, let me know so I can buy a spare set and ride till I die, twisting all the way.

Hugs and warm wishes,


Monday, August 3, 2009

Mountain, thy name is Misery.

There is a hill climb in town that has my name on it. No, not like the Hollywood sign type of name on it. This one is written in sweat and tears. Think blood in the sand, perhaps. Something needs to be done about this.

It is a very popular access into the tail end of the San Gabriels and consists of a 4 mile-ish climb up a fireroad. From here you can continue climbing for hours (or days for that matter) or drop down such notable trails as Viper or Los Pinetos. It is a consistent grade for the most part, never too ridiculously steep, but enough to be a real workout. The last few times I have been up its switchbacked ascent, it has felt very difficult. In fact, I feel like I have been going backwards as what used to be a mix of middle and small ring has degraded into mostly small ring climbing. Huh!

The last two times, including this weekend, I was on the Giant XTC 29er 1. It is a very decent climbing bike, but the saddle sucks (for me), the shortish and rear-set cockpit places me a bit back from the cranks and the 175mm crankarms are great for spinny-ness, but not for torque. In any case, I was all slow...again. So it has me a bit bugged. Am I just getting slower? It has been hot and humid the last two times, but before that, it has been cold and I still suffered and crept along.

I finally tuned up the Lev post-Utah, new brake pads, etc, so I need to take it to the hill and see how a proper (for me) riding position, lighter wheels, and gearing/crank arms I am used to will treat me. This really is mostly a middle ring climb and I need to make it so. If I do not get the results I need, then this is eye opening. It means I need to step up the type of training I am doing. I work close to this dastardly hillclimb, this mocking slope of dirt and chapparal, and this Fall/Winter I may have to make it my mission in life to beat the whoopee out of it. If I bring my bike in at least one day a week, I can get that ride done in 90 minutes or less. We shall see.

Mountain, misery though you may be, watch out. I have you in my sights.